Kevin Bacon, the star of Footloose, Animal House, A Few Good Men, and Apollo 13 was also at the centre of the Kevin Bacon Game back in the mid nineties – a game that illuminated the way for the possibilities of Crowd Funding which was to follow a few years later. It showed the way in which we are all inter-connected, and how, through the powers of the Six Degrees of Separation, we can spread messages to far away networks that reach around the globe and back again. Harnessing this power is at the very epicentre of crowd funding success.
In 1994 in a magazine interview, Kevin Bacon claimed that he had worked with everyone in Hollywood or at least someone who has worked with them. This throw-away comment spawned the headlines “Kevin Bacon is the Centre of the Universe”. These headlines moved a group of local university students to create The Kevin Bacon Game. This game started with a simple exercise of having friends suggest names of Hollywood stars, and they would demonstrate how each one of them was connected to Kevin Bacon. The game concept saw a book written, and then an actual board game was created.
Behind the fun and the silliness, a deeper scientific formula and social experiment lay brewing. The concept of a “Bacon Number” came into being, based on the Erdos Number theory. Kevin Bacon was given the number of 0. Those who worked directly with him were given a Bacon Number of 1 (as an example, we will call this guy “Bob”). Then those who didn’t work directly with Kevin Bacon but did work directly with “Bob” were given a Bacon Number of 2, and so on as the network extended outward.
88% of all actors in Hollywood achieved a Bacon Number, and the largest number was a 9. That is, there were 9 degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and 88% of all actors in the entire Hollywood community. This was based on who had worked with who, and when the experiment was carried out using the presumption of who knew who, the ultimate Bacon Number was far less.
Since this experiment was conducted, similar concepts have been trialled. In one of them, six people in remote locations around the world were given a (controlled) parcel to send to the President of the United States. The only rule was they could only send it to someone they knew personally, someone with whom they share a relationship on a first-name basis, or with whom they had had some form of personal interaction. Each of these parcels made it to their destination, proving the power of the six degrees of separation.
So how does all this relate back to crowd funding?
If we are to start a crowd funding campaign, it is of utmost importance that the project creator gets the message out to their “first degree”, asking them not just to pledge their support, but asking them to pass the message on to their networks and so on. If we assume that everyone on the planet knows 100 people, the first degree network of the project creator is 100. If each of those people in turn knows 100 people and they let each of them know about the campaign, the second tier network amounts to 10,000 (that is, 100 x 100 people). Assuming each person in each tier (or degree of separation) passes news of the campaign on to the 100 people they know and so on, the message can go viral, with potentially over 1 trillion people hearing of the campaign by the time it reaches the sixth degree of separation (yeah, we know it signifies more than the total population of the earth, but it shows the potential of getting the message moving and amplified through the extended networks).
In 1993, Will Smith and Stockard Channing starred in a movie called, Six degrees of Separation. Stockard Channing’s character says in the movie, “I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. Everyone is a new door opening into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. But, to find the right six people…”
This so well encapsulates the essence of crowd funding. Through the power of the internet, campaigns have the chance to viral, to spread, to be heard and supported by millions, billions, and potentially trillions of people. The key is to get the campaign out, and to do so often, so the news is heard by the “right people” who will pledge their support and continue to spread news of the campaign to their networks and beyond.
And it is this that is at the epicenter of crowd funding success!
(Just for the record, Kevin Bacon has been proven not to be the centre of the universe – the centre of the universe is Dennis Hopper!)